The April relay, a COSSOT event in support of the Canadian Cancer Society, took place on the Oval where 60 ten-person teams of runners and walkers from UCC, Bishop Strachan School, Branksome Hall, Crescent School and Havergal College spent four hours in motion – one teammate handing off to the next – while the rest of the community cheered them on. Spectators also enjoyed entertaining sideline activities like volleyball, and there was food and fun for all.
Says Lukas Timusk, one of the Year 12 organizing captions, “It was really inspiring to see the whole community support us in the fight against cancer.”
The weighty issue at the centre of the event was exemplified through a program of cancer survivors addressing the crowd. It was put together by the joint UCC-Havergal organizing team, led by Year 12s Lucas Fiorini, Lewis Lapham, Lukas Timusk and Apostolos Zezos and Havergal’s Sarah Forestell, Erin Howard, Kennedy Johnstone and Brooke Lobb, with assistance from Crescent’s Max Fowler and Brady Stock. The relay itself began with a survivors’ lap, the survivors holding a banner together.
“Honouring the survivors was a really important part of the relay,” said Zezos, the ceremony captain. “We wanted to ensure the community connected with them and heard their stories, because one in three Canadians will have cancer during their lifetime.”
Timusk, the finance captain, was in charge of fundraising and encouraging the team captains to raise money.
“It went extremely well,” he says. “People were quick to donate and there was pretty amazing participation.”
In fact, the event raised about $183,000. As Lapham, the evening’s emcee and the event experience captain, adds, “Participation was much greater than anticipated and the fundraising really took off. Every time I checked, another $10,000 had been raised.”
The evening ended with a luminaria ceremony with about 400 of these lights in paper sacks illuminating the track, each one in honour of a survivor or in memory of someone who had died of cancer. A teen who had lost her brother to cancer gave the closing speech and the runners took a luminaria lap.
“We all felt the power of it and it made us feel so close to our families,” says Zezos.
Fiona Marshall, assistant head of student life at the Upper School, notes, "When James Moffat, Class of 2020, approached me in 2019, wanting to run this event, we really had no idea what it could be. That first year, we raised $150,000 and showed the impact and difference passion and hard work can make. It has become, thanks to the devotion of the students, one of the signature events for COSSOT schools.
“It offers a chance to show leadership and work collaboratively with other schools to make a meaningful impact. I could not be prouder of all the students involved. They are inspiring.”
For their part, the student organizers can’t say enough about the guidance they had from Marshall “who was there day and night, volunteering her time and keeping us on task,” and are thrilled by the support the Canadian Cancer Society provided. They anticipate that the event will get better each year, thanks to the students from Years 10 and 11 who worked alongside them.